The sharing of traditional beliefs can open the door to important conversations and enhance learning opportunities. Let’s explain how First Nations spirituality can enrich Christian perspectives in special and meaningful ways.
HOW DOES FIRST NATIONS SPIRITUALITY CONTRAST WITH CHRISTIANITY IN TODAY’S MODERN WORLD?
The essence of the Christian message is that Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins and when we repent and believe, we are saved and receive eternal life. Traditional First Nations spirituality does not have a concept of needing to be saved, though it does have a knowledge of good and evil and people needing punishment for breaking the lore.
God created the heavens and the earth. First Nations people are loving, caring and sharing and do believe in one God, but it is Baime or the rainbow serpent that is an Aboriginal ‘all-father deity’. Some First Nations people with a traditional spiritual view believe that the rainbow serpent is the creator and that there are lesser creative beings who created the lands, seas, sky, and waterways. However, First Nations Christians will not generally believe in the rainbow serpent as creator.
There is a need to combat the idea that God and Jesus are white. God is without colour. God is incorporeal – without body or physical form – he doesn’t have the identifying characteristics of a human being. The Bible clearly states that God is a spirit. Therefore, he has no skin colour from a man’s perspective.
We value the contribution of First Nations spirituality to Christianity. Parts of First Nations peoples’ and non-Indigenous cultures can glorify and enrich the faith for us all. Pope Francis said: “Let us sit around the common table, a place of conversation and of shared hopes. In this way our differences, which could seem like a banner or a wall, can become a bridge…our own cultural identity is strengthened and enriched because of dialogue with those unlike ourselves.”
HOW CAN SHARED SPIRITUAL UNDERSTANDING INSPIRE FUTURE GENERATIONS?
If we are to change the current gap in health and life outcomes for First Nations people then acknowledging, accepting, and integrating First Nations’ ways of knowing, being and doing into our perspectives is essential.
A life-long resilient faith is both inspired by tradition and open to the world of today.
Some similarities between Christianity and First Nations spirituality include enjoying stories, singing, dancing and art. Both can have visions and dreams. Even in heaven, people will be worshipping God in their own languages.
Some practical ways of relating faith to children, in a way that is culturally appropriate, could be:
- Telling a story from the Bible and doing an activity that brings the stories to life. For example, Jesus on the beach having fish with his disciples and doing this at the beach.
- Talking about the feasts Jesus celebrated and celebrating NAIDOC, Coming of the Light and Reconciliation Week.
- Using a campfire to talk around and have damper, bush fruits etc.
- Trying art concepts with First Nation languages and Christian themes
- A concert with Indigenous and Christian themes 6. A boomerang relay with teams named after First Nations people
- Learning about First Nation languages Embedding First Nations worldviews in culturally responsive ways not only facilitates the reconciliation process, but also enhance our way of dialogue. In this way, we can promote the authentic interplay between our Christian tradition in the Far North Queensland context and the deep wisdom of the First Nations people who have lived and loved on these lands, sea, waters and sky for time immemorial and in doing so we can live and celebrate our identity.
You can read about the history and culture of the Far North Queensland region here.
Lillian Miller is a Consultant First Nations for Cairns Catholic Education